Post in evidenza

Arctic permafrost thawing faster than ever

Permafrost in the Arctic is thawing faster than ever, according to a new US government report that also found  Arctic   seawater is war...


domenica 5 marzo 2017

The Sixth Global Extinction

Siberia’s enormous “hellmouth” crater in the melting permafrost is growing fast — and it’s opening a portal to a 200,000-year-old world.
The Batgaika crater, known to the local Yakutian people as the “doorway to the underworld,” is one of the largest of a growing number of pits collapsing across the Siberian landscape as the ice beneath the surface turns to slush — and methane gas.
But this crater in particular offers some form of a silver lining.
It’s revealing eons of climate change in the region, along with long-buried animal carcasses and petrified forests.
The half-mile-wide, 275-foot-deep crater is growing at the rate of 30 to 100 feet a year as the ice around its edges gives way. Researchers say it’s also getting gradually deeper.
But a study in the science journal Quarternary Research says that, along with its ominous release of greenhouse gas, the stratified layers of the crater’s sides are releasing immense historical climate data.
Preserved in the melting permafrost are layers of pollen revealing that the area was once covered by open tundra. But there are also two prominent bands of tree stumps, showing the land was once dense forest.
Among it all are the remains of ancient mammoth, musk ox, and even a 4,400-year-old horse.
Put together, it’s all painting a picture of gradual changes in climate over the course of tens of thousands of years. Researchers hope it will help them predict what will happen in coming decades.
University of Sussex professor Julian Murton says the last time Siberia appears to have experienced the formation of “hellsmouth” craters was 10,000 years ago — when the Earth woke from the last ice age.
One forest-bed remnant sits above an even older landscape that had been heavily eroded.
“This was probably when permafrost thawed in a past episode of climate warming,” Murton said.
But greenhouse gas levels in our atmosphere are much higher now than then. Current figures place the saturation level at 400 parts per million of CO2. Back then, it was 280 parts per million.

Climate change unfreezes 200,000-year-old ‘doorway to hell’ Jamie Seidel, February 28, 2017

The climate-driven collapse of Canada’s Arctic permafrost is much more widespread than previously thought, according to new research that presents a dire picture of the changing northern landscape. The study maps an unprecedented area of permafrost that is poised to thaw, threatening local communities and infrastructure, and may speed up global warming.

From Siberia to Canada, giant craters and canyons are opening in the Arctic permafrost, the result of climate change in the north. Now for the first time, scientists have mapped the permafrost thaw across a huge swath of the Canadian north — a 1.27 million square kilometre region from the Yukon to Nunavut.
The intensity of the changes that we’re starting to see haven’t been seen for thousands of years,” the paper’s lead author Steve Kokelj told VICE News over the phone from Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. “It’s the first time that disturbance over this large of a landmass has been mapped, and that a scientific rationale was provided for why the hotspots are where they are.”
Scientists fear this process will also release stored methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Permafrost thaw could trigger what some have dubbed “catastrophic climate change,” a cyclical process in which the earth’s warming releases stored greenhouse gases, further warming the earth.
Permafrost is ground that is frozen year round. The further north you go, the greater amount of the landscape sits atop permafrost. Once you’re far enough north, it forms the foundation for the entire landscape, other than bodies of water. In Canada’s northwest, the permafrost is at least 10,000 years old, and it can be hundreds of metres thick.
It’s the glue that holds the land together,” Kokelj says.
On top of the permafrost sit ecosystems, cities, roads, pipelines, and traditional Indigenous hunting and trapping territories.
In many parts of Canada’s north, the permafrost contains large volumes of ice. For thousands of years, the landscape has enjoyed a cold climate that keeps it intact. But now a warming climate is thawing the permafrost and melting the ice that’s trapped inside, resulting in the collapse of the land.
In the future, Kokelj predicts the thaw of organic materials and sediments could change water chemistry, and could alter the landscape for communities in the north, especially Fort McPherson, Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik, which sit in hot spot areas. Permafrost thaw will affect not only people in northern Canada but also millions of people across the Arctic, co-author Trevor Lantz added.
Kokelj calls the type of collapse his team studied “disturbances” or “slumps.” They start as a little nick in the side of a stream or a hill exposing the ice underneath. The sun and rain melt the exposed ice, and the disturbance grows and grows, consuming the land around it. The rate of this thaw and collapse in increasing, and the number of these disturbances is also increasing, his team found.
“And what we’re seeing now in the landscape in the western Arctic, and we’ve studied these for a number of years, is that some of these features now can consume tens of hectares of area, and over a span of decades they can displace millions of cubic metres of materials down slope, so they’re really big,” Kokelj says.
Polar regions are warming faster than any other region on earth, and Canada isn’t the only place that’s seeing permafrost collapse. In northern Russia, buildings are sinking and cracking as the permafrost beneath them thaws. And seven massive craters with diameters as wide as one kilometre have opened up in Siberia.

Canada’s permafrost is collapsing thanks to climate change – VICE News  Hilary Beaumont

Climate Change This Week: The Extinction Connection, Major Investors Urge Action, and More! 03/02/2017 Mary Ellen Harte

L'Artico si scalda due volte più in fretta del resto del Pianeta 9 GIUGNO 2016

‘Tremendous loss’ of ice in the Arctic sea 16 SETTEMBRE 2016

Destroying Arctic sea ice  5 NOVEMBRE 2016

Air pollution kills 600,000 children yearly 5 NOVEMBRE 2016

Airpocalypse causes 1.2 million deaths in India annually 12 GENNAIO 2017


The Climate Apocalypse 23 NOVEMBRE 2016

SYDNEY, Australia — The Great Barrier Reef in Australia has long been one of the world’s most magnificent natural wonders, so enormous it can be seen from space, so beautiful it can move visitors to tears.
But the reef, and the profusion of sea creatures living near it, are in profound trouble.
Huge sections of the Great Barrier Reef, stretching across hundreds of miles of its most pristine northern sector, were recently found to be dead, killed last year by overheated seawater. More southerly sections around the middle of the reef that barely escaped then are bleaching now, a potential precursor to another die-off that could rob some of the reef’s most visited areas of color and life.
“We didn’t expect to see this level of destruction to the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years,” said Terry P. Hughes, director of a government-funded center for coral reef studies at James Cook University in Australia and the lead author of a paper on the reef that is being published Thursday as the cover article of the journal Nature. “In the north, I saw hundreds of reefs — literally two-thirds of the reefs were dying and are now dead.”
The damage to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s largest living structures, is part of a global calamity that has been unfolding intermittently for nearly two decades and seems to be intensifying. In the paper, dozens of scientists described the recent disaster as the third worldwide mass bleaching of coral reefs since 1998, but by far the most widespread and damaging.
The state of coral reefs is a telling sign of the health of the seas. Their distress and death are yet another marker of the ravages of global climate change.
If most of the world’s coral reefs die, as scientists fear is increasingly likely, some of the richest and most colorful life in the ocean could be lost, along with huge sums from reef tourism. In poorer countries, lives are at stake: Hundreds of millions of people get their protein primarily from reef fish, and the loss of that food supply could become a humanitarian crisis.

With this latest global bleaching in its third year, reef scientists say they have no doubt as to the responsible party.
They warned decades ago that the coral reefs would be at risk if human society kept burning fossil fuels at a runaway pace, releasing greenhouse gases that warm the ocean. Emissions continued to rise, and now the background ocean temperature is high enough that any temporary spike poses a critical risk to reefs.
Climate change is not a future threat,” Professor Hughes said. “On the Great Barrier Reef, it’s been happening for 18 years.”
Corals require warm water to thrive, but they are exquisitely sensitive to extra heat. Just two or three degrees Fahrenheit of excess warming can sometimes kill the tiny creatures.
Globally, the ocean has warmed by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century, by a conservative calculation, and a bit more in the tropics, home to many reefs. An additional kick was supplied by an El Niño weather pattern that peaked in 2016 and temporarily warmed much of the surface of the planet, causing the hottest year in a historical record dating to 1880.
It was obvious last year that the corals on many reefs were likely to die, but now formal scientific assessments are coming in. The paper in Nature documents vast coral bleaching in 2016 along a 500-mile section of the reef north of Cairns, a city on Australia’s eastern coast.
Bleaching indicates that corals are under heat stress, but they do not always die and cooler water can help them recover. Subsequent surveys of the Great Barrier Reef, conducted late last year after the deadline for inclusion in the Nature paper, documented that extensive patches of reef had in fact died, and would not be likely to recover soon, if at all.
Professor Hughes led those surveys. He said that he and his students cried when he showed them maps of the damage, which he had calculated in part by flying low in small planes and helicopters.
His aerial surveys, combined with underwater measurements, found that 67 percent of the corals had died in a long stretch north of Port Douglas, and in patches, the mortality reached 83 percent.
By luck, a storm stirred the waters in the central and southern parts of the reef at a critical moment, cooling them, and mortality there was much lower — about 6 percent in a stretch off Townsville, and even lower in the southernmost part of the reef.
But an Australian government study released last week found that over all, last year brought “the highest sea surface temperatures across the Great Barrier Reef on record.”
Only 9 percent of the reef has avoided bleaching since 1998, Professor Hughes said, and now, the less remote, more heavily visited stretch from Cairns south is in trouble again. Water temperatures there remain so high that another round of mass bleaching is underway, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority confirmed last week.
Professor Hughes said he hoped the die-off this time would not be as serious as last year’s, but “back-to-back bleaching is unheard-of in Australia.” The central and southern part of the reef had already been badly damaged by human activities like dredging and pollution.
The Australian government has tried to combat these local threats with its Reef 2050 plan, restricting port development, dredging and agricultural runoff, among other risks. But Professor Hughes’s research found that, given the high temperatures, these national efforts to improve water quality were not enough.
“The reefs in muddy water were just as fried as those in pristine water,” Professor Hughes said. “That’s not good news in terms of what you can do locally to prevent bleaching — the answer to that is not very much at all. You have to address climate change directly.”
With the election of Donald J. Trump as the American president, a recent global deal to tackle the problem, known as the Paris Agreement, seems to be in peril. Australia’s conservative government also continues to support fossil fuel development, including what many scientists and conservationists see as the reef’s most immediate threat — a proposed coal mine, expected to be among the world’s largest, to be built inland from the reef by the Adani Group, a conglomerate based in India.
“The fact is, Australia is the largest coal exporter in the world, and the last thing we should be doing to our greatest national asset is making the situation worse,” said Imogen Zethoven, campaign director for the Australian Marine Conservation Society.
Australia relies on the Great Barrier Reef for about 70,000 jobs and billions of dollars annually in tourism revenue, and it is not yet clear how that economy will be affected by the reef’s deterioration. Even in hard-hit areas, large patches of the Great Barrier Reef survived, and guides will most likely take tourists there, avoiding the dead zones.
The global reef crisis does not necessarily mean extinction for coral species. The corals may save themselves, as many other creatures are attempting to do, by moving toward the poles as the Earth warms, establishing new reefs in cooler water.
But the changes humans are causing are so rapid, by geological standards, that it is not entirely clear that coral species will be able to keep up. And even if the corals do survive, that does not mean individual reefs will continue to thrive where they do now.
Coral reefs are sensitive systems, built by unusual animals. The corals themselves are tiny polyps that act like farmers, capturing colorful single-celled plants called algae that convert sunlight into food. The coral polyps form colonies and build a limestone scaffolding on which to live — a reef.
But when the water near a reef gets too hot, the algae begin producing toxins, and the corals expel them in self-defense, turning ghostly white. If water temperatures drop soon enough, the corals can grow new algae and survive, but if not, they may succumb to starvation or disease.
Even when the corals die, some reefs eventually recover. If water temperatures stay moderate, the damaged sections of the Great Barrier Reef may be covered with corals again in as few as 10 or 15 years.
But the temperature of the ocean is now high enough that global mass bleaching events seem to be growing more frequent. If they become routine, many of the world’s hard-hit coral reefs may never be able to re-establish themselves.
Within a decade, certain kinds of branching and plate coral could be extinct, reef scientists say, along with a variety of small fish that rely on them for protection from predators.
“I don’t think the Great Barrier Reef will ever again be as great as it used to be — at least not in our lifetimes,” said C. Mark Eakin, a reef expert with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in Silver Spring, Md.
Dr. Eakin was an author of the new paper and heads a program called Coral Reef Watch, producing predictive maps to warn when coral bleaching is imminent. Even though last year’s El Niño has ended, water temperatures are high enough that his maps are showing continued hot water across millions of square miles of the ocean.
Kim M. Cobb, a climate scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology who was not involved in the writing of the new paper, described it and the more recent findings as accurate, and depressing. She said she saw extensive coral devastation last year off Kiritimati Island, part of the Republic of Kiribati several thousand miles from Australia and a place she visits regularly in her research.
With the international effort to fight climate change at risk of losing momentum, “ocean temperatures continue to march upward,” Dr. Cobb said. “The idea that we’re going to have 20 or 30 years before we reach the next bleaching and mortality event for the corals is basically a fantasy.”

In the first comprehensive review of the more than 4,000 native bee species in North America and Hawaii, the Center for Biological Diversity has found that more than half the species with sufficient data to assess are declining. Nearly one in four is imperiled and at increasing risk of extinction.

The new analysis, Pollinators in Peril: A systematic status review of North American and Hawaiian native bees, revealed that more than 700 species are in trouble from a range of serious threats, including severe habitat loss and escalating pesticide use.

"The evidence is overwhelming that hundreds of the native bees we depend on for ecosystem stability, as well as pollination services worth billions of dollars, are spiraling toward extinction," said Kelsey Kopec, a native pollinator researcher at the Center for Biological Diversity and author of the study. "It's a quiet but staggering crisis unfolding right under our noses that illuminates the unacceptably high cost of our careless addiction to pesticides and monoculture farming.

"The widespread decline of European honeybees has been well documented in recent years. But until now much less has been revealed about the 4,337 native bee species in North America and Hawaii. These mostly solitary, ground-nesting bees play a crucial ecological role by pollinating wild plants and provide more than $3 billion in fruit-pollination services each year in the United States.

The key findings:
  • Among native bee species with sufficient data to assess (1,437), more than half (749) are declining. (Click here to see a list of the bees as well as their status and geographic range).
  • Nearly one in four (347 native bee species) is imperiled and at increasing risk of extinction.
  • Many of the bee species lacking sufficient data are also likely declining or at risk of extinction, highlighting the urgent need for additional research.
  • The declines are caused primarily by habitat loss, heavy pesticide use, climate change and urbanization.
These troubling findings come as a growing body of research has revealed that more than 40 percent of insect pollinators are highly threatened globally, including many of the native bees critical to unprompted crop and wildflower pollination across the U.S.

To assess current population trends and threats as comprehensibly as possible for the 4,337 described species of North American and Hawaiian bees, Center for Biological Diversity staff reviewed the current conservation status of 316 species as established by state, federal or independent research. We then conducted a comprehensive review of all available literature on native bees to determine a status for an additional 1,121 species.

"We're on the verge of losing hundreds of native bee species in the United States if we don't act to save them," said Kopec, who spent more than a year analyzing the data. "Almost 90 percent of wild plants are dependent on insect pollination. If we don't act to save these remarkable creatures, our world will be a less colorful and more lonesome place."

The assessment highlights five imperiled native bees that offer a vivid snapshot of the unchecked threats driving declines in many native bee species:

Yellow carpet solitary bee: This dark, olive-green bee, whose fate is intertwined with its floral host and California's dwindling vernal pools, is severely threatened with extinction.

Sunflower leafcutting bee: This spectacularly large bee used to be seen patrolling sunflower stands throughout the Great Plains; it is now in steep decline and rarely seen.

Wild sweet potato bee: Known for its unique three-lobed snout, this bee, once commonly seen foraging across much of the East, is now dangerously imperiled.

Gulf Coast solitary bee: Completely dependent on the disappearing coastal plain honeycombhead plant and the barrier-island sand dunes where it nests, this bee is now found only within a shrinking portion of its range along the Gulf Coast.

Macropis cuckoo bee: This nest invader, which takes over the nests of other bee species to lay its eggs, was once common across much of central and eastern North America but is now considered that region's most endangered bee.

Pesticides linked to extinction of wild bees 18 AGOSTO 2016

Honey Bees Extinction 9 GIUGNO 2016

Pesticide linked to UK honeybee deaths  22 AGOSTO 2015


LE ULTIME API June 1, 2015

THE LATEST BEES April 27, 2015

KILLING US SOFTLY I pesticidi sono cancerogeni e rendono sterili APRIL 2, 2015

L'erbicida Roundup è cancerogeno MARCH 21, 2015

Manipulate and Mislead Guerra alla Monsanto MARCH 26, 2015

Today is World Wildlife Day; a great opportunity to highlight mankind’s heroic efforts to protect Earth’s amazing wildlife and biodiversity. How we treat our world is a reflection of our humanity, our intelligence, our conscience and ultimately, our very survival. Protecting endangered species is one of the most important things any of us can do.
Few animals face greater challenges than the rhinoceros. This beautiful giant is hunted, butchered and killed for its horn – which is prized for its disproven medicinal properties and as a symbol of status and wealth. 

Since 2008, over 6,000 rhinos have been poached across Africa, most of them in South Africa. The sad truth is that if nothing is done to protect the rhino, it could be extinct in as little as 10 years. 
I have long argued for the need to tackle the issue of poaching along the entire value chain of the illicit wildlife trade. I’ve supported WildAid’s campaign to reduce demand in Vietnam and China by highlighting that rhino horn is really nothing more than keratin, the same substance that makes up human hair and nails. I’ve also travelled to Vietnam to meet with business leaders who have pledged to no longer use rhino horn and encourage their peers to do the same. 
But progress on poaching has been sluggish, and it will require an even greater degree of international collaboration to raise awareness, reduce demand, interrupt illicit supply chains and bring those who stand to gain the most from this bloody trade to justice.
Those working on the ground to protect the rhino have some of the hardest jobs imaginable; risking their lives every day to patrol vast stretches of land and guard against armed poachers. 
Celebrating the work of these unsung heroes has been a passion of Charlie Dailey, a family friend and photographer. Charlie, who has spent time in South Africa with the remarkable non-profit organisation Rhinos Without Borders, shared some of her beautiful and touching images with us.
Rhinos Without Borders is a partnership between South Africa and Botswana. The foundation was established by two competing tourist operators, who have come together with one shared goal: save the rhino. It’s a plain and simple idea: capture the animals in parts of South Africa threatened by poachers and transport them to confidential locations in the wildlife concessions and national parks of Botswana. 
Botswana has been chosen as the final destination because of the country’s commitment to the conservation of these wonderful animals. From local communities, who see the benefits of a thriving wildlife to tourism, to the government, which has implemented some of the world’s toughest anti-poaching measures, Botswana is a safe haven.
I have nothing but respect and admiration for the Rhinos Without Borders team, who work together seamlessly to perform the dangerous operation of capturing and transporting the rhinos. 
Charlie’s photos document the complex chain of events. After tracking a rhino via helicopter, the vet administers the dart to sedate the animal. Once the sedative has taken effect, the capture team moves in, and use blindfolds and ear plugs to calm the animal, before guiding the rhino to a safe working area. Before the rhino is flown to Botswana, it is tagged and DNA and blood samples are taken. The team also fit a transmitter to help their Botswanan partners monitor the rhino once released. 
The Rhinos Without Borders team hope that, within the next decade, they will be able to transport rhinos to other countries in the region where this great animal once thrived. But for now, the Botswana wilderness is where they belong. Safe from poachers, they will be able to flourish and regenerate their vulnerable population.
To learn more and support Rhinos Without Borders, please visit their website.

High price of rhino horn leaves bloody trail across the globe Damian Carrington 10 March 2017

Killed for keratin? The unnecessary extinction of the rhinoceros TERRY SUNDERLAND 19 Nov 2011


LONDON —  Friday is U.N. World Wildlife Day, which aims to celebrate and raise awareness of the world's wild animals and plants. This year's theme is "Listen to the Young Voices," but many campaigners warn that future generations may never see many of the species around today because they are on the brink of extinction, mostly because of human activity.

That includes the hidden wildlife beneath the oceans, at increasing risk from the huge amount of plastics filling our seas — from microbeads in cosmetics to industrial-scale waste.
"Twelve million tons of plastic is entering the oceans every year, which is about a rubbish truck's worth of plastic every single minute," said Louisa Casson of Greenpeace's London office. "Plastic is entering every single level of the ocean food chain, and marine creatures from zooplankton up to blue whales are choking on plastics. They are ingesting it, and they are getting tangled up in it."
Around the world, the United Nations warns, human activity is depleting biodiversity. In many parts of Africa, elephants and rhinos are under huge pressure from poachers.
From the skies above Tsavo National Park, the Kenya Wildlife Service has been conducting its annual survey of elephant populations covering 48,000 square kilometers of land during the past few weeks.
"We brought poaching down around 2014, so we expect the population possibly to have started picking up," said Shadrack Ngene, head of the service's ecological monitoring.
It is a dangerous job. Last month, a Kenyan ranger was shot dead by poachers. The wildlife charity Thin Green Line estimates that about 100 rangers are killed in the line of duty every year.
China, the world's biggest ivory market, announced a ban in December on all ivory trade that takes effect by the end of 2017. It's been hailed as a game-changer by conservationists.

On World Wildlife Day, Campaigners Warn of Extinction Threats March 03, 2017 Henry Ridgwell

The Ivory Game 5 NOVEMBRE 2016

Tigers are the largest Asian cats in the world. Belonging to the genus Panthera, they are found in different habitats like rainforests, grasslands, savannas and even mangrove swamps across the Asian countries of Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Bhutan, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, China, Malaysia, Russia, Nepal, and Myanmar. These ferocious cats rely on their vision and hearing abilities rather than smell when they hunt. Tigers are big eaters and can consume up to 88 pounds of meat at one time. Female tigers give birth to litters of two or three cubs every two years. The average age of a tiger, when living a healthy life, is 26 years. The average weight of a tiger is between 220-660 pounds.
At the start of the 20th century, it is estimated there were over 100,000 tigers in the wild, but the population has massively dwindled. Optimistically, there are approximately only 3980 tigers remaining in the world, which means that the species is highly endangered and it’s mostly our fault. Here are 3 major reasons why the population of tigers in the worlds has reduced drastically over the few decades.
  • Humans are destroying the natural habitat
Tigers are territorial creatures and are extremely dependent on their environment. As civilization takes up more and more space, forests began to shrink. In the name of progress, for building new retreats and making commute shorter, we have invaded the jungle with our hotels and roads. Many trees have been cut down to accommodate the ever-growing human population. Even though there still are some forests in Asia, it is difficult for tigers to move to another location as they are extremely territorial. Although they might not be in their territory all the time, they will make it a point to visit it every few days or weeks to mark their domain.
Illegal hunting and poaching of tigers are one of the major reasons that these ferocious creatures have become an endangered species. People hunt them for their meat, skin, and different body parts. In China, tigers are hunted specifically for their bones as these are used to create different Chinese medicines. Demand for tiger parts for use in traditional Chinese medicine has soared and shows no sign of stopping. There’s a good chance that this black market will completely eliminate tigers from some areas of the world.
  • Tigers are unable to produce the desired number of offspring
The number of tigers has decreased rapidly and the population had dropped to only 40 tigers at one point in time in the 1930s. These numbers will not increase quickly as the lower the number of female tigers in the world, the more difficult it will be for them to reproduce. Even though they give birth to cubs every two years, half of these do not survive beyond the age of 2. This is likely connected to their dwindling habitats. A female is only receptive for three to six days, making it a very small timeframe in which tigers can generate a new litter.
There are a lot of efforts that have been put towards saving the lives of tigers and as a result, after a decade of declining numbers, the statistics are changing. Although the numbers are finally on the rise, there is a lot more that still needs to be done to save endangered tigers.

How humans are bringing tigers to the brink of extinction MARCH 13, 2017


Just before Christmas 2016, somewhere in the 110,000-acre Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina, another red wolf was found shot to death.
Whether the person who shot that wolf thought they were killing a coyote or knew they were shooting one of the world’s most endangered mammal species is hard to say for sure. What is for sure, though, is that the red wolf population has been shredded by bullets since 2012, to the point where at last count the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service only knew of 29 red wolves with functioning radio-collars.
The red wolf is our snow leopard, our giant panda, our Siberian tiger (actually all three of those species have much larger wild populations than red wolves). But rather than trying to save the red wolf, a few of the political leaders of North Carolina are actively trying to finish it off.
The latest salvo is an attempt by N.C. Sen. Bill Cook of Beaufort County to allow nighttime coyote hunting in the five counties that make up the red wolf recovery area. No one can tell a coyote from a red wolf just by looking down the beam of a spotlight. The proposed law, if it stood up to court challenges, which it won’t, would provide the perfect cover for anyone to go out shooting wolves under cover of darkness.
Why do people want to shoot red wolves and coyotes? The dominant industry in the red wolf recovery area is large-scale crop farming, and the wild canids pose little threat to corn and soybeans, especially in comparison to serious crop pests like white-tailed deer. But a multi-millionaire real estate developer has been working since 2012 to build up landowner resentment toward the red wolf program. He has met with some success by repeating one strident claim over and over: That the red wolf has caused the “greatest wildlife disaster in the history of North Carolina.”
Some landowners apparently are willing to buy into the notion that a carnivore like a wolf or coyote must be destroying their local deer and wild turkey populations. This sentiment is admirable in the sense that it demonstrates a conservation ethic for protecting game species from extinction. But it turns out to be misplaced.
Deer and wild turkey are both doing well across North Carolina, despite the presence of coyotes in all 100 counties by the year 2000. For example, 2013 provided the record statewide harvest of white-tailed deer, and in 2015 wild turkey populations hit record highs. Deer and turkey also remain quite abundant inside the red wolf recovery area – in fact the reported deer harvest in Tyrrell County (where the anti-wolf real estate developer has his hunting preserve) has increased 270 percent since the wolves were reintroduced in 1987!
In part to address landowner concerns over the impact of the wolves, Wildlands Network set up 23 motion-sensitive wildlife cameras at various points in Alligator River and Pocosin Lakes NWR’s, along with a few tracts of private land. Rather than tell you what we’ve seen, I’d rather people go to our Flickr site and judge for themselves. In the interest of transparency, we’re continuing to post all of the tens of thousands of wildlife photos online as we collect them: /photos/redwolfreality /albums
The Albemarle Peninsula is still wild and expansive enough to support a robust hunting culture and a recovering population of red wolves. But the wolves will only bounce back if people stop shooting them, and that is going to take some serious landowner outreach and myth-busting on the part of the U.S. FWS and the conservation groups that want the wolf to survive.
Ron Sutherland, Ph.D., of Durham is a conservation scientist for the Wildlands Network, a national group dedicated to creating an environment “where humans co-exist in harmony with the land and its wild inhabitants.”

Read more here:

This past November, WDC provided support for the proposal to list the Maui Dolphin and its close relative, the South Island Hector dolphin, as endangered under the US Endangered Species Act but the Administration has yet to take action. 
WDC believes that providing the necessary protections to these vulnerable dolphins in the first 100 days of office would be a measure of success for this Administration.  
Maui dolphins are found only off the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. They are the smallest of the world’s 38 known dolphin species, around four feet long, and live in small groups of 2 to 8 individuals. They look identical to their close relatives of the South Island, the Hector’s dolphin, and until 2002, Maui dolphins were known as the North Island Hector’s dolphin. It wasn’t until a scientist discovered the genetic and skeletal uniqueness of the Maui dolphin that they became their own sub-species.   
Currently, there are only an estimated 63 individuals (over one year of age) remaining in the population. 
The Threats
Their tendency to stick close to shore and spend time in harbors, estuaries, and shallow bays has had a significant effect on the Maui dolphin’s range. About 90% of the population is now found along a 22-mile stretch of coastline, and they share that coastline with humans. 
The primary threat contributing to the Maui dolphins’ low population is fisheries by catch. In addition to this danger, the Maui dolphins’ habitat is located right outside Auckland – New Zealand’s largest city.
The high-impact human use in the area includes seismic surveys and seabed mining, all of which are currently managed by the New Zealand Department of Conservation.
So what can we do?
In 2008, the Department created the North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary. Within the sanctuary’s boundaries, seismic surveys must follow a code of conduct, but are still allowed, and seabed mining is prohibited only out to two nautical miles along the full length of the sanctuary.
Fishing gear restrictions are also in effect. Set nets, which are fixed in place in the water, are not allowed in certain areas or only allowed if an observer is onboard in others. Trawling, with towed nets behind a boat, is also not allowed in some areas and is prohibited in harbors. Drift nets, which have no point of attachment in the water or on a boat, are only banned in one river.
These regulations, while helpful and a step in the right direction, do not protect the Maui dolphins from the full scale of these threats in all of their primary habitat. While some of these protections extend out to four nautical miles at most, Maui dolphins range up to twenty miles offshore. The current rules are simply not enough. 
There is still hope for the Maui dolphin. The number of adults appears to have stabilized over the past few years, but further protections are still needed. It’s estimated that the population may only be able to grow by 2% per year – roughly one individual per year at their current population size. Here’s how you can help them recover and prevent more loss:
  • WDC has proposed a New Zealand Dolphin Sanctuary that would encompass both islands of New Zealand and include the full extent of the Maui dolphin’s current and historic range as well as the range of the Maui’s close relatives, the South Island’s Hector dolphins. The restrictions included with this sanctuary would remove the biggest immediate threat of bycatch and allow the population to grow.
  • By donating to WDC, you can help support our efforts to establish this sanctuary and hold New Zealand responsible for providing adequate protections for their unique and critically endangered Maui dolphins. You can also subscribe to our blogs and eNews to stay up-to-date on our policy and research efforts for the conservation of this incredible species.  
  • Lastly, help spread the word about Maui dolphins! Educate your family and friends about their struggle to survive and let them know about all the ways they can help. Inspire others to care about these issues by sharing your knowledge so they can understand the importance of their role as ocean stewards, even half a world away.
Remember, all water goes to the ocean, so whether you live on the beach or in the mountains, your everyday life can affect and is affected by our oceans.  It’s also important to remember that regardless of where you live, whales affect your life by fertilizing the phytoplankton that provide the oxygen for every other breath you take!
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to speak upknowledge is catching! Explain your choices and actions to your friends and family.  You may inspire them to make positive, whale-friendly changes, too. 
Together we can create a world where every whale and dolphin is safe and free!


The Pearl River Estuary Chinese dolphin population is declining at about 2.5 percent per year and is fast approaching its minimum viability threshold.

Chinese white dolphins (Sousa chinensis) inhabiting the Pearl River Estuary face a far greater threat than previously thought, according to a study published in Scientific Reports

The current demographic trajectory of the population and the ongoing loss of their critical habitats leave only a slim chance to prevent their stochastic extinction. For conservationists and management authorities, the time to act is now, said the researchers from the University of Hong Kong (HKU). 

Because long-term survival of free-ranging populations depends on the carrying capacity of their habitat, the demographic and ecological threshold values represent the minimum population size that can be long-term viable and the minimum area of critical habitat that has to be maintained to secure a long-term survival of the minimum viable population. 

These issues become particularly important for populations that face severe anthropogenic impacts, such as the Chinese white dolphins in waters of the Pearl River Estuary. The natural stochastic fluctuations of their environment are magnified by human impacts and escalate to levels that may impair their survival

Therefore, accurate estimates of demographic and ecological thresholds of a population are critically important in designing effective conservation strategy. For elusive animals such as dolphins and whales, such estimates are notoriously difficult to generate because of the inherent difficulties of collecting sufficiently robust demographic datasets. It takes many years of tedious data collection to build the minimum scientific evidence needed for such analyses; which is why very few attempts of such work have ever been done. 

In a world’s first study of coastal dolphins, researchers from the Swire Institute of Marine Science, HKU studied the Chinese white dolphins inhabiting waters of the Pearl River Estuary. The team estimated that if human impacts were to be excluded and the population was stable, approximately 2,000 dolphins would be a sufficiently viable population and, if given access to approximately 3,000 km2 of their undisturbed critical habitat, such a population could persist across at least 40 generations (approximately 800 years). 

The so-called “critical habitat” is the type of habitat that dolphins use for their daily needs; these are the areas where they find sufficient amount of food and shelter. In Hong Kong, it is primarily alongside the natural coastline of south and southwest Lantau Island. The amount and connectivity of this shallow-water habitat affects dolphins’ survival; the less of the critical habitat there is the lower the likelihood of dolphin survival

However, the Pearl River Estuary dolphin population is currently declining by approximately 2.5 percent per year and is fast approaching its viability threshold. At the same time, all current marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Pearl River Estuary fail to secure the minimum habitat requirement to accommodate sufficiently viable population size that could withstand the ever-growing anthropogenic pressures. 

Cumulatively, all current MPAs in both Hong Kong and Mainland waters cover just about 600 km2, of which very little represents the dolphin critical habitat. Study leader Associate Professor Leszek Karczmarski pointed out that in Hong Kong, less than 17 percent of the dolphins’ core areas and less than 7 percent of their core foraging grounds are under legal protection; and in Mainland waters this ratio is even smaller. “To be effective, conservation measures should not only increase the volume of the habitat under protection but, importantly, focus the conservation effort on the core areas and key habitats used by the dolphins for their daily needs. Preserving the ecological integrity of those areas should be among the primary conservation targets,” Karczmarski added. 

“Unfortunately, our findings indicate that the Pearl River Estuary dolphin population is deemed to become extinct unless effective conservation measures can rapidly reverse the current population trend.” 

The article can be found at: Karczmarski et al. (2017) Threshold of Long-term Survival of a Coastal Delphinid in Anthropogenically Degraded Environment: Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins in Pearl River Delta. ——— Source: University of Hong Kong. 

No more than 30 vaquitas are left in Mexico’s Gulf of California. Experts propose keeping some in captivity as a last resort.

SAN FELIPE, Mexico — In the shallow sea waters of the Gulf of California swims a porpoise that few have seen, its numbers dwindling so fast that its very existence is now in peril. 

Known mostly by its Spanish name, the snub-nosed vaquita is the world’s smallest cetacean, a miniature porpoise with a cartoonlike features and dark smudges around its eyes. The species lives only in the fertile waters of the gulf’s northern corner. 

The size of its population has always been precarious, but now voracious demand in China for a fish that shares the vaquita’s only habitat has pushed the tiny porpoise to the brink of extinction. 

No more than 30 vaquitas are left, according to a November estimate based on monitoring of their echolocation clicks. Half of the vaquitas counted a year earlier have disappeared.

This calamity has hardly gone unnoticed. The vaquita has been vanishing in plain sight, to the despair of conservationists who have been advising the Mexican government on how to save it. All of the resources brought to bear, including the protection of the Mexican Navy, have proved to be no match against the illegal wildlife trade.

If we continue on the path we’re on, we’ll have no vaquitas in two years,” said Barbara Taylor, a marine mammal expert at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The vaquita are simply bycatch, trapped and drowned in curtains of illegal gillnets set for an endangered fish called the totoaba. The fish’s swim bladder is dried and smuggled to China, where wealthy diners pay thousands of dollars for the delicacy, believing it to have medicinal powers.
To feed that appetite, totoaba poachers have killed 90 percent of the vaquita population since 2011, according to the acoustic monitoring program led by Armando Jaramillo Legorreta at the Mexican government’s National Ecology and Climate Change Institute, known as INECC.
With so few vaquitas left, experts advising the Mexican government have proposed capturing several specimens and holding them in a sea pen as a way of conserving the species until the threat to its habitat is removed. It’s a last-ditch measure that conservationists had hoped they would never have to resort to.
“We had always been opposed to captivity,” said Lorenzo Rojas Bracho, a marine mammal expert at INECC and the chairman of an advisory group, the International Committee for Vaquita Recovery. But nobody expected that the population would decline so quickly.
“There are risks,” Dr. Rojas Bracho said of the capture plan. “But they are fewer than leaving them with the fishing as it is.”
The plan would entail training United States Navy dolphins to locate vaquitas, capturing them for transfer to a temporary pool and then to a sea pen to be built in their habitat along the Gulf of California coast. The majority of vaquitas would remain in the wild.
But the unknowns loom large. “We don’t know whether they find them,” Dr. Taylor said of the dolphins. “We don’t know whether we can catch them. We don’t know how they will react.”
“If you get a negative result in any one of these steps,” she added, “it’s basically game over” for the capture plan. Even in the best of scenarios, breeding in captivity is unlikely to restore the population. A female vaquita gives birth to one calf every two years on average.
If the proposal goes forward, the vaquita would join other species at the brink of extinction — like the California condor and the golden lion tamarin, in Brazil — that are being closely managed in some form distinct from their natural setting. It would be the first such effort for a marine mammal.
A very small population can be pulled back from the edge, but “it requires outside-the-box thinking,” said Samuel Turvey, a research fellow at the Zoological Society of London who studies conservation management for highly threatened species.
A managed-conservation plan designed with the expectation that the animals can eventually be returned to the wild “is not a permanent solution,” he added. “It’s an emergency stopgap with an exit strategy.”
Nor would it be a quick fix. “It requires intensive sustained efforts for decades to recover species from these catastrophic low levels,” said Richard Young, the head of conservation science at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Dr. Turvey speaks from experience. He witnessed the first human-caused extinction of a cetacean, the Yangtze River dolphin. Like the vaquita, the baiji, as it was more commonly known, occupied a limited habitat in small numbers and was decimated as bycatch in local fisheries.
For a decade, researchers discussed removing individual baiji to a semi-natural reserve as a short-term conservation measure. But when Dr. Turvey and other researchers led an expedition down the Yangtze in 2006 to look for specimens, they found none.
The baiji “only became a story when it was gone,” he said, adding that “it was really dark and upsetting.”
It is an experience that Dr. Taylor, who was on the expedition, hopes not to repeat. “It’s idealistic to think that we’re going to effect the significant changes in fisheries and enforcement practices in the wild in time to save vaquitas,” she said.
If anything, those efforts have reached a nadir.
Two years ago, the Mexican government imposed a two-year ban on all gillnets across 5,000 square miles of the vaquita habitat and sent its Navy to enforce it. To support the communities of the upper Gulf, which depend on fishing and shrimping, the government allocated $74 million in compensation over the two years.
The hope was that the military could halt the totoaba trade and that two years would be long enough to complete development of vaquita-safe trawl nets to substitute for shrimp gillnets. (Even before the totoaba trade surged, legal gillnet fishing had depleted the vaquita population.)
But local fishermen argue that the new nets’ catches are too meager to provide a living, and the authorities have been sympathetic. “While there is no alternative to fishing practices, nobody will give up their gillnets,” Dr. Rojas Bracho said.
The promised enforcement also has fallen short. That was evident this month aboard the Sam Simon, a 57-meter antipoaching vessel operated by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an environmental organization.
In an agreement with the Mexican Navy, Sea Shepherd has been patrolling the vaquita habitat, pulling illegal nets out of the water and spotting poachers. “We see illegal activity almost every day,” said Oona Layolle, the leader of the Sea Shepherd campaign, called Operation Milagro (Spanish for “miracle”).
At about 4 p.m. one afternoon this month, a fishing boat pulled up just a few hundred meters from the Sam Simon carrying four men guided by a hand-held GPS device. One of the men dragged a hook in the water, looking for a gillnet they had hidden there.
The Sam Simon sent a drone over the small boat and it sped off, only to return with six men aboard, who threw objects at the drone before leaving again. Despite a call to the Mexican Navy, nobody came.
Even when arrests are made, conservationists say, the prosecution is too slapdash to win a conviction for a serious crime.
Last year, Mexican Navy patrols succeeded in scaring off the totoaba poachers by day, forcing them to haul in their nets at night. But this year, the poachers work openly during the day, some wearing balaclavas, apparently undeterred by desultory government patrols. Some poachers even post photos of their weapons on Facebook.
At the same time, four boats belonging to Mexico’s environmental prosecutor are parked on a side street running above the dock here, their motors broken or simply unused because fuel is in short supply.
The nets tell a similar tale. Over 10 weeks last spring, Operation Milagro pulled 42 totoaba nets from these waters. In the fall, a broad government-sponsored survey succeeded in finding 36 totoaba nets, 28 of which were in use.
In mid-December, Operation Milgro resumed and found 56 more totoaba nets in nine weeks. Almost all were new, and some were set in the same places that the government effort had cleared just weeks earlier.
During night patrol aboard the Sam Simon last week, the crew pulled up yet another totoaba net of wide blue mesh, its unweathered red buoys evidence that the net was brand new.
The situation is so dramatic that we have to take huge measures,” Ms. Layolle said. “It is a desperate time.”
Mexico’s environment minister, Rafael Pacchiano Alamán, promised this month to send 45 federal police officers to patrol the beaches and to dismantle poachers’ camps.
But he did not respond to the main recommendation of conservationists: a permanent gillnet ban. The legal fishing season for corvina has begun, which means dozens of small boats will be out on the water, giving cover to poachers.
Despite a promise last year by President Enrique Peña Nieto, the government has yet to act on the gillnet ban. Without that, warn conservationists, there is no way to begin to save the vaquita.
“If you can’t remove the threats, the population keeps declining,” Dr. Turvey said. “You don’t have time for complacency.”

(CNN) Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot unlike any other.
The fourth largest island in the world broke off from mainland Africa around 150 million years ago, cast adrift in the Indian Ocean.
Isolation proved fertile breeding ground for evolution. Today the island has 8,000 species that are not found in the wild anywhere else on the planet.
    Of these, lemurs are the star attraction.
    There are 106 known species and subspecies of the molten-eyed furry forest primates, and tracking them is a thrilling adventure through a landscape of vast contrasts and changing climates.
    Lemurs inhabit lush tropical rainforests, spiny dry forests, semi-arid desert canyons and cool central highlands.
    Tracking them is the experience of a lifetime, but isn't for the fainthearted.
    And it's become increasingly tricky as the lemurs face terrible threats to their existence.

    Brink of extinction

    Lemurs are thought to be the most threatened mammal group in the world, with most species facing extinction.
    Although they're ingrained in Malagasy culture, revered as the spirits of ancestors (their name translates as "specter"), efforts on the island to safeguard their future have been patchy.
    Political instability hasn't helped. A coup in 2009 plunged the country into instability and abject poverty, particularly affecting remote rural regions.
    Tourism numbers, previously rising, plummeted and never recovered, resulting in the loss of funds for lemur conservation projects.
    Their habitat's also under threat with only 20% remaining, says Jonah Ratsimbazafy, a leading primatologist and co-chair of Madagascar International Union for the Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission.
    "Lemurs are one fifth of the world's primates and are the goose laying the golden egg for Madagascar. Tourists want to see them in their natural environment."
    He fears that if deforestation continues, in 25 years Madagascar's forest and lemurs would be wiped out.
    But there is hope.
    After 93 lemur species were put on critical, endangered or vulnerable watch lists in 2013, conservation experts drew up a three-year emergency plan requiring $7.6 million.
    Smooth elections in 2014 helped spur efforts to seek international help, meaning viable projects to help save the lemurs could soon receive financial backing.
    "Since last year, the political landscape has shifted," says Christoph Schwitzer, director of conservation for the Bristol Zoological Society and the IUCN Primate Specialist Group.
    "A new president was elected with new democratic government. Most donors and international funders are back on board."
    Optimism is in the air for the first time in years. For Madagascar's wildlife, it can't come soon enough.

    'Haunting cries'

    As I scour forests across the country, with local guides, I'm spellbound by the haunting lemur cry echoing like a dawn chorus through the rainforest.
    We watch as a family of indri, the largest living lemur, swings tree-to-tree deep in the Andasibe-Mantadia national park.
    Seeing them in their environment is deeply moving -- not least because they're among the most at risk.
    "Indri are being hunted for food by rural Malagasy needing to feed their starving families," Schwitzer says.
    "Lemur hunting rose after the 2009 political crisis and is directly poverty-driven."
    Some species are teetering right on the brink. The northern sportive lemur is believed to be down to just 60 animals.
    Agriculture plays its part. Malagasy farmers have long employed slash-and-burn techniques, clearing trees to plant rice fields, burning the land to create fertile soil.
    Then there's illegal mining and the logging of precious rosewood and ebony -- a lucrative operation run by heavily armed loggers known as the "rosewood mafia" that has depleted eastern rainforests.
    Efforts to block the loggers through legal channels have previously been thwarted, but with an international task force now investigating exports, change seems imminent.

    Success story

    In recent years, Madagascar's area of protected forest has tripled, although with no physical barriers or armed rangers, it's been left to local communities to take action.
    Anja Reserve, in the center of the island, is the biggest success story.
    In 2001, it was designated protected land and the government transferred its management to the local community.
    With the help of conservation and charity groups, the reserve has expanded, offering locals alternative incomes such as rice fields and fish farming.
    It's now the most visited private reserve in the country.
    But reserves such as Anja are few and far between, says Haja Rasambainarivo, co- founder of Madagascar's Asisten Travel Agency.
    "Anja is on a tourist route. We need better infrastructure, better roads and a more reliable domestic airline to create more tourist routes through the country, to support more similar projects.
    "Tourism can do this. It can bring infrastructure, education and jobs."
    Anja Reserve is where I first see the iconic ring-tailed lemurs. The reserve is impressive with staggering granitic boulders and green valleys.
    Hiking with trackers from the community association, their sense of pride is evident.
    Officials say tourism is now a real priority for Madagascar's government, which has drastically increased funding to promote the island as an eco-tourism destination and attract up to two million annual visitors by 2020.
    Experts are now optimistic that lemurs have a future.
    "I see hope in the upcoming breed of Malagasy conservationists," says Schwitzer. "They've been internationally trained and are fully committed. It's only a matter of time,"
    Rasambainarivo adds: "Tourism can save Madagascar and, if prioritized, could save lemurs, wildlife and human life."
    If lemur survival is achieved, Madagascar could become the world-class ecotourism destination that it truly deserves to be.

    Back from the brink: Lemurs of Madagascar Anisha Shah CNN August 27, 2015

    Hit by a car. Savaged by a dog. Slashed by a strimmer. Burnt in a bonfire. Tangled in garden netting. Poisoned by slug pellets. Caught in a postman’s discarded rubber bands. Head stuck in a tin can. Tricked out of hibernation by increasingly unpredictable winter weather. 
    Modern life, governed by humans, designs a multitude of ingenious ways for a hedgehog to die. It is no wonder that this treasured animal, a suburban garden fixture, which consistently tops favourite-species polls and is the source of many people’s first close encounter with a wild creature, is vanishing from Britain.
    This disappearance is rapid, and recent. A survey of more than 2,600 people by BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine in February found that 51% of gardeners didn’t see a hedgehog at all last year, up from 48% in 2015. Barely one in 10 saw a hedgehog regularly. Scientific studies are unequivocal. Britain’s hedgehog population was calculated to be 1.55 million in 1995. Since the turn of the century it has declined by a third in urban areas and up to 75% in the countryside. A survey based on roadkill calculates that hedgehogs are declining by 3% each year. This exceeds the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list criteria, which identifies species at greatest conservation risk. Why are we obliterating hedgehogs? Will they become extinct? Or can we save them?
    Ecologist and nature writer Hugh Warwick has a spiky beard, a hedgehog tattoo and a familiar tale of a broken relationship with these beasts. He had hedgehogs in his garden in east Oxford until suddenly, four years ago, they disappeared. “What happened four years ago to make the hedgehogs vanish? It’s actually what happened 40 years ago,” he says. “We ended up with an area that was too small for them to survive.”
    For all the small accidents that can befall a hedgehog, its decline is driven by one big trend, according to Warwick: habitat fragmentation. Female hedgehogs roam an average of 1km every night in search of insects and earthworms; males an average of 2km. To maintain a minimum viable population of 32 individuals in ideal hedgehog habitat (something rather like suburban gardens) there must be 90 hectares of contiguous land – that’s nearly 1km/sq of good quality, connected land. “That’s bloody terrifying,” says Warwick. He lives on a 20-hectare housing estate adjoining a seven-hectare park, surrounded by three busy roads and a canalised ditch. Of course, a few hedgehog populations will defy scientific modelling, but once Warwick’s roads became busier and the hedgehogs became trapped within 27 hectares, they were doomed.
    Ironically, it was a dividing up of the British landscape that was probably the making of the hedgehog, as Warwick reveals in his forthcoming book, Linescapes. This robust, adaptable mammal has been around in a recognisably hedgehoggian form for 15m years. Hedgehogs are “edge” specialists. A Dutch study found they spend 55% of their time within five metres of a hedge. In Britain, the hedgehog was bequeathed bountiful hedges by the 18th and 19th century enclosure movement, which allowed common land to move into private ownership. “The hedgehog hides beneath the rotten hedge / And makes a great round nest of grass and sedge,” wrote John Clare, the Northamptonshire farm labourer and poet who railed against the enclosures’ dispossession of the rural poor.
    Still, the hedgehog is declining more slowly in car-filled towns and suburbs than in the countryside. So what’s causing such a precipitous rural decline? Most farmers reply: it’s all those damn badgers. Badger-lovers may find it uncomfortable that the scientific evidence in part supports this assertion. A 2014 survey found active badger setts in England had doubled since the late 1980s, and the number of badger social groups in England is growing by 2.6% each year (badger populations are stable in Wales and rising more slowly in Scotland). Legal protection, milder winters and farming patterns – notably increases in maize, which badgers adore – are helping the badger thrive. Is there a correlation between more badgers and fewer hedgehogs?
    Doncaster introduced 30 radio-tagged hedgehogs to a badger-filled wood in Oxfordshire and found seven of them were eaten by badgers. Badgers and hedgehogs enjoy what scientists call “an asymmetric intra-guild predatory relationship”: they eat the same food – mostly earthworms, grubs and beetles – but if that food becomes scarce, or if the badger population reaches a certain density, then the bigger beast preys on the smaller.
    A study of hedgehog-friendly grassland habitat within a scientific badger cull zone found that counts of hedgehogs more than doubled over five years from 1998. The authors concluded: “Previous studies indicate that badger predation is one of the main causes of hedgehog mortality, and that badger density correlates negatively with hedgehog abundance.”
    That may be so, argues Warwick, but humans, not badgers, are the principal architects of hedgehogs’ decline. Badgers and hedgehogs have coexisted in Britain since the glaciers retreated. “People are looking to find blame,” says Warwick, “and you can’t blame badgers for doing what they do when confronted with the environment we’ve created for them, which is difficult for hedgehogs and good for badgers.”
    It all comes back to hedges. “It’s my belief that if you have smaller fields and thicker hedges you will have less opportunity for a predatory interaction between badgers and hedgehogs,” says Warwick. Between 1984 and 1990, 121,000kms of British hedges were destroyed, 22% of the total. We may have halted that destruction but many remaining hedges are in a poor state of repair. A bedraggled hedge won’t provide much food or shelter for a hedgehog.
    It is easy to despair, but thousands of ordinary people are helping to save hedgehogs. Caroline Gould runs Vale Wildlife hospital. Usually, she treats 800 hedgehogs in a year. Last year, she had more than 1,000 admissions. This increase is partly positive: people are much more aware, reports Gould, and if they see a hedgehog in daylight they realise it’s not well and bring it in. She believes that winters swinging between mild and cold wreak havoc with hedgehogs’ traditional November-April hibernation: if they emerge in midwinter, they burn precious fat reserves in the pursuit of food that isn’t there.
    “The milder winters also cause a problem with parasites, because parasites thrive better in the warmer, damper autumns that we have now – particularly things like fluke [a parasitic flatworm],” she says. There’s good news though: while 50-60% of other sick or injured wild animals are returned to the wild, more than 90% of her hedgehogs are rehabilitated. “We have an excellent success rate with hedgehogs,” says Gould. So hedgehogs make good patients? “I don’t know about good patients. They are expensive patients.”
    So far, 43,000 people have signed up to be hedgehog champions for Hedgehog Street, a project run by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society with the People’s Trust for Endangered Species. People can do many simple things to make their gardens more hedgehog-friendly, says Fay Vass, chief executive of BHPS: check before strimming long grass or starting a bonfire and leave wild patches of dead leaves, long grass or log piles where hedgehogs can make their nests. Best of all, Hedgehog Street encourages everyone to make a CD-case-sized hole in their garden fence that will help reconnect fragmented urban habitat. “As their name suggests, hedgehogs tend to stick to the edge of gardens so if there’s a gap in the fence they’ll find it,” says Vass. The BHPS sells “hedgehog highway” plaques, which explain the gap in the fence if people move away. Housing associations and Wildlife Trusts are joining the hole-making; 3,575 have been marked on Hedgehog Street’s map. BHPS-funded “hedgehog officers” are also encouraging councils to leave some grass long; and they supply free stickers to put on council and contractor mowers, reminding them to check for hedgehogs before cutting.
    In some neighbourhoods, help for hedgehogs is being scaled up. Phil Korbel of Sustainable Living in the Heatons launched Heatons Hedgehog Highway in Stockport’s suburban fringe. “We love hedgehogs but we also want to get people talking across their garden fences again. It’s a real magnet for community,” he says.
    Volunteer Sarah McClelland has made a hole in her fence backing on to an allotment and is helping log hedgehog sightings – they have collected 30 in the Heatons over the past decade, but fewer in recent years. In April, 23 local “hedgehog trackers” will lay out special tubes containing dog food, paper and poster paint, which will reveal hedgehog tracks and show where hedgehog help is needed. “It’s not just about putting holes in fences, it’s also about giving them little wild areas in gardens and not using slug pellets that poison them,” says McClelland. “The kids are so excited and desperately want to be hedgehog trackers. It’s really good to see the next generation wanting to take part.”
    Will there be a next generation of hedgehogs for them to cherish? According to Warwick, the hedgehog is not heading for extinction, but it may become an uncommon animal, and disappear completely from many areas just as the house sparrow vanished from London at the turn of this century. We can identify why specialist species that feed on a particular plant or animal disappear. It’s scarier to lose a generalist animal such as the hedgehog. We don’t know the full story of its disappearance, but we know its vanishing reveals that our anthropogenic environment is inhospitable for many other unheralded animals.
    “This is an animal we love and care about deeply. It’s an animal we can get nose-to-nose to, and so we notice its decline,” says Warwick. “There are species out there we care less for that will be suffering similar fates. If we can’t save the hedgehog, we’re stuffed, basically.”

    Mr Toad may have been an infamous petrolhead but cars are squashing numbers of the common toad, with a 68% fall over the past three decades. South-east England has experienced the worst declines.

    Water voles

    The water vole – Ratty in The Wind in the Willows – experienced a precipitous decline throughout the 20th century. Despite an intensive conservation effort, its range on Canal and River Trust waterways fell by almost 50% this century. Many are preyed on by American mink – escapees from fur farms.


    The abundance of common butterfly species has fallen by 69% in towns and cities and 45% in rural areas over 20 years from 1995. Small coppers and small heaths have been particularly badly affected in urban areas, falling by 75% and 78% respectively.


    These amazing migratory birds scream as they dash through the sky and breed in British towns every summer. They can go at least 10 months without touching solid ground but have still declined by 33% over the last decade. Modern building regulations have blocked up their nests in the eaves but a loss of insect food is also driving their disappearance.


    There is some evidence urban fox numbers are rising, particularly in the north, but England’s fox population has fallen by 43% between 1995 and 2015, including a sharp drop since 2010. A decline in rabbit numbers, because of disease and falling earthworm populations, are the main factors, but there is anecdotal evidence that more have been shot since the hunting ban.


    A study of 62 species of wild bees that feed on flowers of oilseed rape found declines of up to 30% over 17 years, with a 10% reduction in distribution attributed to recently banned neonicotinoid pesticides. On average, nearly 20% of Britain’s honeybee colonies have been lost each winter since surveying began nine years ago.
    Research by the University of Southampton has found that methods used to predict the effect of species extinction on ecosystems could be producing inaccurate results. This is because current thinking assumes that when a species vanishes, its role within an environment is lost too.

    However, scientists working on a new study have found that when a , (for example a group of ), is wiped out by a catastrophic event, other species can change their behaviour to compensate, exploiting the vacant role left behind. This leads to positive or negative effects on ecosystems, and in turn, either better or worse outcomes than current estimates would suggest.
    At present, predictions assume that any contribution is completely lost at the point of extinction -leading to a decline in ecosystem performance.
    The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports. Lead author Matthias Schmidt Thomsen, of Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton, says: "We have known for some time that a reduction in biodiversity has negative ecological consequences, but predictions of what happens to an ecosystem have not accounted for the occurrence of compensatory responses."
    He added: "Our study provides evidence that the response of surviving species to novel circumstances can, at least partially, offset, or indeed exacerbate, changes in an ecosystem that are associated with species removal."
    The researchers based their findings on the interaction of species in a community of invertebrates (such as clams, shrimps and worms) obtained from marine seabed samples collected in Galway Bay, Ireland. Bottom dwelling marine organisms are particularly vulnerable to extinction because they are often unable to avoid disturbance. These organisms are important because they churn up sediments from the bottom of the ocean, a process known as 'bioturbation', playing a vital role in returning nutrients to surrounding water as food for other creatures.
    Using mathematical simulations, the team were able to explore what happens to the bioturbation process as species are removed from the system under different extinction scenarios. The simulations also accounted for the nuances of how other creatures would react as circumstances change. The direction and strength of response depends on the type of compensation and the extinction scenario.
    Co-author, Dr Clement Garcia, an ecologist from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in Lowestoft said "There have been concerns over the gradual erosion of our natural habitat for some time. These findings will help resolve some of the detail that has previously been unavailable, allowing us to better identify both vulnerabilities and opportunities that coincide with  and human endeavour."
    The team's findings have important implications for the conservation of biological resources and habitat, and will support the refinement of models that are used to predict the consequences of human activity and environmental change.
    More information: Matthias S. Thomsen et al. Consequences of biodiversity loss diverge from expectation due to post-extinction compensatory responses, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/srep43695 

    A United Nations expert on human rights and the environment has warned that human activity is well on its way to causing a global extinction event that will harm humans and animals equally.

    John H. Knox, professor of international law with Wake Forest University, and UN Special Rapporteur, is set to formally present a report to the United Nations Humans Rights Council on March 7. Ahead of that, he has spoken at length about how "The rapid loss of biological diversity around the world should be setting off alarm bells."
    "We are well on our way to the sixth global extinction of species in the history of the planet, and states are still failing to halt the main drivers of biodiversity loss, including habitat destruction, poaching and climate change," Knox said.
    "What is less well understood," he added, "is that the loss of biodiversity undermines the enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, including rights to life, health, food and water."
    Knox's report to the UN, the first to address the relationship between human rights and biodiversity, details the numerous negative effects of the loss of biodiversity, including the endangering of agriculture and fisheries, the destruction of potential sources of new medicines, the weakening of human immune systems, and the undermining of water supplies.
    "While the loss of biodiversity affects everyone, the worst-off are those who depend most closely on nature for their material and cultural life," Knox wrote in the report. "Even when cutting down forests or building dams have economic benefits, those benefits are usually experienced disproportionately by those who did not depend directly on the resource and the costs are imposed disproportionately on those who did."
    Knox also stressed that the rights of indigenous peoples must be respected while defending bioversity, claiming that they "often" go hand in hand.
    The last global extinction event was the Cretaceous-Paleogene event, some 66-million years ago, in which the impact of the Chicxulub meteor led to the extinction of all non-avian dinosaurs and most large reptiles, as well as countless other species, paving the way for the rise of mammals and, eventually, humans.
    Scientists now claim that humans are living in the midst of an extinction event of our own; the Holocene Event, brought on by the worldwide promulgation of the human species. A 2015 study from the University of Hawaii at Manoa concluded that human activity has caused 7 percent of species on the planet to become extinct. Some researchers, such as Harvard University biologist E.O. Wilson, have warned that 50 percent of Earth's multicellular species will be extinct by 2100.

    Humans, greed, and fossil fuels are the main drivers for the possible extinction of up to half of all species by 2100 that scientists are warning about, says Dr. Reese Halter, a conservation biologist and author of The Incomparable Honeybee.
    Our desire for enhanced consumption grows more rapidly than our population, and Earth cannot sustain it. Nothing less than a reordering of our priorities based on a moral revolution can succeed in maintaining the world in such a way as to resemble the conditions we have enjoyed here,” warned the organizers of a workshop on Biological Extinction which was held at the Vatican earlier this week. 
    Rich western countries are now siphoning up the planet’s resources and destroying its ecosystems at an unprecedented rate,” according to one of the participants of the event, Prof. Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University in California.  
    Meanwhile, there are growing concerns in the US over attempts by some members of Congress to weaken the Endangered Species Act enacted in 1973. 
    RT America’s Manila Chan asked Dr. Reese Halter what the main drivers of the mass extinction scientists warn about are.
    Reese Halter: The short answer is humans; the second answer is greed; the third answer is... subsidized fossil fuels... Each year 5.6 trillion dollars globally is being spent subsidizing the biggest, wealthiest polluters – the fossil fuel companies. Earth is unequivocally warming up. Just take a look at western North America: we’ve lost 30 billion mature trees. When the trees go, sadly, we go.  
    From 1970 to 2014, we discovered that 50 percent of all land wild life is gone. That was in 2014. Now we’re told by 2020, in three years, that we will be missing 66 percent of all land wild life. That is in 2020! We have a huge problem. 
    Specifically, in the oceans from 2000 to 2010, for a 10-year period, human beings poached and slaughtered one billion sharks. For most of the shark species, we’re now missing 90 percent of sharks. Let me remind you that sharks and their ancestors have been on our planet for over 400 million years. Sharks are doctors of the sea. They keep the oceans healthy by removing their prey that is sick and weak, and old, and they prevent diseases from going global. So when we remove the doctors, the oceans are sick... 

    World Oceans Day 9 GIUGNO 2016

    RT: If life on Earth took billions of years to get to where we are right now, is it possible that we can actually destroy it at a faster rate than how it evolved? 
    RH: This much we know from The International Union for Conservation of Nature, the big meeting last year in September, in Hawaii. Since the dawning of reproductive life 1.1 billion years ago, in the five previous mass extinctions there has never been an instance where all the large animals, every large animal in the sea is being killed and slaughtered. We’re destroying all life. This is a crisis of epic proportion and it boils down to this. Save nature now! 
    RT: As a conservation biologist, how are the folks in your field responding to someone like Scott Pruitt heading up the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who wants to cut the budget? How will this affect the environmental policy? 
    RH: What we’re doing, we’re marching, we’re standing up for science... For heaven's sake, the rusty patched bumblebee was listed to be an endangered species. The Trump administration has suspended it. This is our food; the water is used for our food and people to drink. Are we going to have a big Flint, Michigan all over America, because coal corporations are polluting the water that is the life blood of Earth? And the answer is: if we were to remove the Clean Water Act – yes. What the frack!

    ‘What the frack! We’re destroying all life, we have a huge problem’ 4 Mar, 2017

    Each year, looting Earth’s forests, its animals, waterways, wetlands, coral reefs and its oceans account for $400 billion in commerce.

    This ecocide rampage is run by organized crime and, in part, fueled by Big Oil subsidies in excess of $1.9 trillion annually.

    About 1.1 billion people, or 15 percent of the human race, depends upon killing our living planet for their daily livelihood. This also includes enslaving millions of children.
    In other cases, governments are miserably failing to protect biodiversity hotspots. For instance, the Australian Environment MinisterGreg Hunt, refuses to acknowledge expert scientists and their professional assessment of the dying Great Barrier Reef. “The decision to dump dredging spoils has to be a political decision because it’s not supported by science at all,” says Dr Charlie Veron, retired chief scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
    Instead of siding with science and protecting the environment, Hunt has authorized 5 million metric tons of Abbot Point harbor dredgings to be dumped onto the inner Great Barrier Reef.
    This quickly accommodates coal mining from Queeensland’s Galilee Basin that is loaded onto new docks that feed giant ocean-going coal freighters, supplying voracious Indian and Chinese coal-fired power plants.
    Dr Charlie Veron is the “Godfather of coral reefs” and when asked about the current state of Queensland’s spectacular reef he responded: “The inshore Great Barrier Reef has change beyond recognition, most of it is dead.”

    Coral reefs are 'likely to disappear from the Earth' 19 AGOSTO 2015

    Meanwhile, on Australia’s southwestern coast, the WA state government continues to deliberately kill over 172 sharks on baited drum lines in order to gentrify the Indian Ocean, so more people can surf and fewer sharks can maintain their vital role as predators culling the old, weak and sick and preventing diseases from becoming epidemics.
    “The WA Government is ignoring science and the majority of the public to once again plan to use a meat curtain of baited drum lines, which is merely a false sense of security given Hawaii has condemned the WA governments action, given they tried culling sharks for 18 years and it made no difference to shark related incidents,” says a passionate Jeff Hansen, Managing Director of Sea Shepherd Australia.
    On the African continent, loathsome poachers recently massacred in excess of 100,000 elephants for their ivory tusks. Poaching rhinos for their half-million-dollar horn has increased, over the past seven years, by five thousand percent.
    The most egregious and shocking example of the last great ransacking of our planet is the plight of sharks. Up until the last decade, these magnificent creatures have withstood the rigorous test of 400 million years of evolution.
    The ‘War Against Nature‘ has annihilated sharks. Today, 9 out of 10 sharks are missing in the oceans.
    We have reached a crucial moment in our history. It’s up to each of us to lend a helping hand and end this deranged global ecocide.
    Please, support The Big Life FoundationStop Rhino Poaching and LUSH Cosmetics Company because they are helping to end shark finning.
    Earth Dr Reese Halter’s forthcoming book is “Shepherding the Sea: The Race to Save Our Oceans.”

    A Global Ecocide Rampage Oct 26, 2014 Dr. Reese Halter

    Trading in Extinction 8 FEBBRAIO 2017

    The "sixth mass extinction" November 18, 2011

    Eaten Into Extinction 20 OTTOBRE 2016

    Hunting into Extinction 12 AGOSTO 2015

    Where Have All the Animals Gone? 29 DICEMBRE 2015

    Stop Illegal Wildlife Trade and Consumption 21 AGOSTO 2015

    The World's Largest Animals Are Close To Disappearing 25 AGOSTO 2016

    Gli Ultimi Ghepardi The Last Cheetahs 27 DICEMBRE 2016

    The Last Leopards 2 7 DICEMBRE 2016

    Racing against Extinction 28 NOVEMBRE 2015

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